Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia, has made the news often in 2014 and will surely make more headlines in 2015. Actions like the invasion of Crimea, as well as rebel activity in the Ukraine, have made him a polarizing person to the Western World. As a former member of the KGB, or secret service of the former Soviet Empire, some have proposed that perhaps he is still a communist. The reason being is that during the Cold War, communism was the excuse given for the Soviet’s advancement of world domination. I would like to propose a different theory. When I look at history, I do not see much difference between the actions of Czarist Russia or Soviet communism. The truth is, communism was the excuse (or vehicle) that the Russians used to fulfill their historical motivation for world dominion. When I was a child, the fear of communist dominion was the fear of most of the Western World and motivated western actions throughout the Cold War. The first sign of trouble for the communist block was when China broke from the Soviet Union. They were the first ones to recognize the Russians were more concerned about their influence over the world than communist philosophy. Communism was just a cover for the Russian culture to be Russian, with a more noble reason than just operating in selfishness.
Self-Denial is Still the Path to Eternal Life!
Unfortunately, it is common for people to find philosophies that will give them the freedom to be themselves, rather than to conform to a more noble call. This can be true in our point-of-view of government, philosophy, and unfortunately, even religion. When I was a child driving around with my parents, I would take note of churches that said things like “Russian Orthodox Church” or perhaps “Dutch Reformed Church.” These were obviously churches acknowledging their cultural bias, but more often then not, the biases were hidden. Many people choose church like everything else in life—by trying to find something that “fits” who they are. This gave Karl Marx, the founder of communism, fuel for one of his memorable quotes: “Religion is the opiate of the people.” Marx often found religion as a means to make people comfortable, rather than a means to live beyond themselves. Of course, he did not realize how powerful human motivations can be. Even his philosophy became another opiate to make the people who “fit” it to be more comfortable too. Modern churches are even recognizing this trait and utilizing it in their marketing campaigns. “Come as you are!” many churches proclaim, with the idea of coming to our comfortable church where you won’t be challenged to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. I have never been against reaching people for the Kingdom, and it has always been my sincere desire to see the greatest harvest, but good evangelism tools become an enemy of the gospel when people are told that they can stay where they are. True disciples of Jesus Christ cannot forget the core of our message trying to sell the product. Jesus said it very clearly:
Luke 9:23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
The apostle Paul demonstrated his desire to always be reaching for what was ahead of him in a letter to the church of Philippi. He was pushing for the “upward call.” Will you reach with me and seek for a transformative work that will take you beyond yourself?